Thursday, August 30, 2012

The end is near...

Only one day left to go....

I've been participating in The August Break 2012, 
(more or less, I missed a bunch of days) which is about to wrap up.
(read more about TAB here)

Morning Glories are one of my favorite flowers.  
Each summer I grow some near our back door.  
Not only are they beautiful, but I love how they 
greet each day fresh and new.  
Good reminder!  Every day is a new start.    

Labor Day weekend is upon us.
And a Blue Moon!  
Hope the evening is clear for viewing and enjoying.  

Blue Moon 
You saw me standing alone 
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own Blue Moon 
You know just what I was there for 
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for

"Blue Moon," sung by a lot of folks,
including Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Last week I finally made it to the Lichtenstein show at the Art Institute of Chicago, which opened back in May.  You may be thinking, "Um.... it's at your place of employment.  You're there five days of every week."  This is true, I'm at the AIC frequently.  This can be a hazard of working at a museum, actually SEEING the objects in the museum.  My office is across the street from the museum itself, and the special exhibition hall is over in a part of the museum not on a usual route to Take Care of Business.  In other words, it requires a trip On Purpose.  I know, queue the violins. 

It closes on September 3, so I made a point of seeing the show.  If you're in Chicago and would like to see it this week, the details are here.  For those not in Chicago, here's a mini tour.  The website has a lot of additional details on the exhibition.  

I will preface the tour by saying this - it is just a quickie tour, not a review and not a proper dissertation.  The art history I had was ages ago, and didn't go any later than around Impressionism, aside from architectural history.  I don't really understand "modern" art.  This is a few photos, and a few non-academic opinions.  

So, why should we care about Roy Lichtenstein?  Why bother have an exhibition devoted to his work?

From the description leading into the hall:

"His contribution - the still-potent collision of commercial sources and fine art - defined the enduring legacy of Pop Art."


"In restating the mass-produced image by means of insistently handmade, painterly process, he confounded the notion of the readymade and forever expanded and altered our understanding of how a painting can be made, how it should look, and how we define the artist in our society."

Makes sense to me!  After viewing the exhibition, I had a greater appreciation for the artist, and his place in history.   

Detail of above painting.  

This was the most interesting part of the exhibition for me, 
Lichtenstein's explorations of other artistic styles.  
Recognize this one?  The AIC has a lot of works by this artist.  

The answer here.

This was my favorite, I found it amusing.

I also noticed the hygrothermograph in the corner.  
This is another hazard of working at a museum, noticing non-art stuff in a gallery.  
(What is a hygrothermograph?  It is an instrument that measures 
the air temperature and humidity).  

Update September 5, 2012 - The Lichtenstein show was the 2nd most popular in the past ten years.  The retrospective drew about 350,000 visitors.  Read full article in The Chicago Tribune.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why write?

Today is the last day of an online writing course I've been taking with Tammy Stroebel of Rowdy Kittens.  It was only three weeks long, but has somehow amicably slipped into my daily routine.  I'm feeling a little sad at the course's end.  Tammy and the other participants are so warm, so supportive, it really gave this fledgling blogger a boost.

The notice of the course was actually the kick I needed to get a blog started.  I had a niggling in the back of my mind for awhile to begin one.  Earlier this summer I was given a friendly nudge to start writing, perhaps a blog.  Serendipity struck in the form of "Writing in the Digital Age."  I've been working on trusting my intuition, and signed up straightaway.  As the start date approached, it gave me the deadline I needed to get up and running.  

One of assignments we had was to consider why we write.  At the time of the assignment I had given it some thought, but hadn't put anything "to paper."  It became clearer to me this morning while at a group meditation.  After the meditation, the facilitator invited us to share our experience.  One, sharing allows the experience to be integrated at the cellular level.  And, two, more related to writing, it helps us realize we are not alone in our experience.  Each of us has a unique story to tell, but pieces of our stories overlap.  We recognize our story in others' stories.  Sharing helps us feel more connected, less alone.    

At the outset, I didn't realize how much I'd enjoy writing.  I liked writing as a child, but hadn't done any as an adult.  Sure, there were academic papers in college, but even that was some time ago.  Until recently, writing tended to be increasingly brief correspondence.  Similar to why I like photography and yoga, the pointed concentration is a respite from the random fleeting thoughts.  Writing, photography, and yoga all encourage me to slow down, notice the details.      

Thanks , Tammy, and all the talented writers (and photographers!) at "Writing in the Digital Age, Summer 2012." Such an eclectic group, dispersed all over the world.  I will miss our daily lessons, but look forward to keeping connected through our writing.  



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Aqua Fresca and The Importance of a Quiet Weekend

Aqua Fresca de Sandía

"It is odd we often consider fatigue a sign of weakness of character,
when we honor other natural urges.  If we are hungry, we eat.
If we are thirsty, we drink.  But, if we're tired, we immediately think,
'what's wrong with me?'  It may be that there is nothing wrong.  
You simply need to rest.  The Ayurvedic classics advise that 
we stop the activities of the body, of speech and of the mind before
getting exhausted.  This can help preserve prana - our life 
force - and stay healthy."  ~ Dr. Claudia Welch 

I came across this quote today in an article by Dr. Welch (or Dr. Claudia), and it perfectly sums up my thoughts on this past weekend.  It has been awhile since I had a Quiet Weekend, and I made an intention to have one.  Invitations were politely declined, and interesting workshops were not registered for.  We've been on the go, and this little introvert wanted to re-charge.  Ayurvedic-ly, I am vata predominant (more on all that another time), and it's easy for me to get unbalanced.  I try to take preemptive measures to prevent this.  For me, an unstructured weekend at home is very grounding.  I had a massage, went to yoga class each day, took care of some miscellaneous projects around the house, had deep refreshing sleep, and spent long stretches of time on the back deck.  

While grocery shopping, I spotted a watermelon, and immediately pictured myself enjoying a tall refreshing glass on the deck.  Literally "fresh water," I was introduced to the Mexican beverage by Chef Leyla during the first Common Threads summer camp.  Fruit pulp was everywhere, the floors tacky with juices.  If you've ever spent time with kids in a kitchen, you know how it is!  

Aquas Frescas are very easy.  You can use watermelon, cantaloupe, or any fruit that is soft enough to puree, such as strawberries, pineapple, mango (or a combination, the beauty of making it yourself!)

Peel, seed, and chop the fruit.
Puree in a blender or food processor.
Squeeze in some lime juice.
Add water (about 2 parts fruit to 1 part water) OR I found seltzer to be quite nice.
Add sugar, if desired.  I find fruit plenty sweet enough on its own.  
Chill and / or serve over chopped ice.

Peel and chop.  Don't worry about the small
seeds, they'll get blended or strained out.

Strain - don't forget to scrape both sides to get every bit!

A bowl scraper works great for this task, but any spatula will do.  

Other ideas -
* If you are going to add sugar, you could make simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water simmered until sugar dissolves, then cooled) and add in a flavor, such as mint, basil, or ginger.
* You could muddle mint in the bottom of your glass, such as for a mojito.
* For an adult beverage, add in your favorite liquor.  

So simple, right?  Enjoy some yourself this weekend!


P.S.  A few other photos I took over the weekend.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Herbal happenings

Day 21

Marjoram flowers
Cilantro leaves and seeds
Cilantro flowers


The August Break 2012
read more here

Monday, August 20, 2012

All-American Fun at Great America

Classic Summer Fun
Six Flags Great America
Gurnee, IL


Part of The August Break 2012
(read more here)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Can she bake an apple crisp?

Last weekend we had an impromptu dinner with some friends.  It ended up being a collaborative meal, with everyone bringing some component.  Fruit crisp is my go-to dessert for last minute situations, especially in the summertime.  Sometimes even when I do have more time, crisp is always a favorite.  It's endlessly adaptable, and so easy!  

I actually ran out of time before guests arrived, and made the crisp while they nibbled on appetizers.  It's the kind of thing you can do and still participate in the conversation, and guests don't feel they've caught you in the midst of some big endeavor.  It's delicious all on its own, or even better served a la mode or with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.  And yes, you should whip the cream yourself.  It takes two seconds, and is way better (taste and ingredient-wise) than the aerosol can stuff, and don't even mention that fake whipped topping business.   

But enough preaching, back to the dessert!  This recipe is from Gerri, the mother of a college-era boyfriend.  A dear, lovely woman, she first introduced me to baking bread from scratch, and healing herbs. 

Here is the original recipe, and below are comments and ideas.

Enjoy the sweet life!


Fruit Crisp

1 - 21 oz. can of fruit pie filling (cherry or other)
1/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. oats
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 c. butter

* Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, or 350 if using a glass pie pan.
* Grease pie pan.  
* Spread fruit in pan.
* Stir brown sugar, flour, oat, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a bowl, or pulse a few times in the bowl of a food processor.  Cut butter into small pieces (1/2" or so).  Cut butter into dry ingredients, using food processor, a pastry blender, or two knives.  Work until butter is the size of small pebbles.  
* Distribute topping over the fruit.
* Bake 35-40 minutes, until topping is browned and fruit is bubbling.  
* Let cool some before eating.  Difficult, I know!

Notes from Tara:

*  I use fresh fruit when I can.  Although not a summer fruit, this time I used apples, as that is what I had on hand.  Apples, cherries, mixed berries, peaches...  any fruit you'd find in a pie is a possibility.  Process however needed to get in a ready-to-eat bite-sized manner.  You can even add in some dried fruit or other flavors, such as cranberries and grated ginger with apples.  Go crazy!  

* Firmer fruits, such as fresh apples, need a little more baking time.  Cover with foil if the topping is getting too brown and the fruit isn't yet bubbly.  

* Canned fruit filling has sugar already added, so if you use fresh, you'll want to add sugar yourself.  How much?  That depends on the sweetness of the fruit and your preference.  In a bowl, mix together fruit and a small amount of sugar, say 1/4 c.  Stir, and let sugar dissolve while making topping.  Taste, and see if sweet enough.  If yes, you're good to go!  If not, add a bit more, taste, continue until satisfied.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer to the baking dish.  You could also use other sweeteners.  

* If using a very moist fruit, such as mixed berries, add in some thickener, like corn starch or flour.  From Everything Pies, the average amount of cornstarch for 4 ounces of fruit is 1 to 2 teaspoons.  

* You can also use frozen fruit.  I only buy unsweetened fruit, so would want to add in sugar as with fresh.  If sugar already included, no need to add more.  Thaw before using.  

* I usually make gluten free by substituting an equal measure (by weight, or by quantity if you don't have a kitchen scale) of gluten free flour mix for the flour.  You could also use whole wheat flour.         

* Chopped nuts are also a welcome addition to the topping.  Be sure pieces are nice and small, especially if using a harder nut, like almonds.  

If there is any leftover, it is delicious the next day!
Warm slightly, in microwave or (toaster) oven.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Little daisies white

Day Sixteen
(geesh, where is the month going???)

At evening when I go to bed

I see the stars shine overhead;
They are the little daisies white
That dot the meadow of the Night.

And often while I'm dreaming so,

Across the sky the Moon will go;
It is a lady, sweet and fair,
Who comes to gather daisies there.

For, when at morning I arise,

There's not a star left in the skies;
She's picked them all and dropped them down
Into the meadows of the town.

"Daisies" by Evaleen Stein


I am participating in The August Break 2012
read more here

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

'Cause this is summertime

Day Fifteen

An' think of the summers of the past
Adjust the base an' let the Alpine blast
Pop in my CD an' let me run a rhyme
An' put your car on cruise an' lay back
'Cause this is summertime

Summer, summer, summertime
Time to sit back and unwind
Summer, summer, summertime
Time to sit back and unwind

"Summertime," DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince


The August Break 2012
(read more here)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Peacocks in Chicago

I'm participating in The August Break 2012.  Want to learn more?  

I missed a few days, seems like it has been go go go!

From the Palmer House, Monroe Entrance

Did you know?  Peacocks are the male, females are called peahens.  
A mixed group would be known as peafowl.  

Saturday, August 11, 2012



Nana, my maternal grandmother, and my youngest sister, Kim, stood in the kitchen at my parents' house.  Both were there to assist with care for my mother, in the last stages of terminal breast cancer.  Although quite ill, my mother still had very strong opinions about her treatment, the running of the house, and life in general.  

Nana vented, "Your mother is so stubborn!"  Kim replied, "Gee, I wonder where she gets that from?"  Not noticing the sarcasm in her voice, Nana responded, "Yes, that Papa sure was stubborn!"  

Nana and Papa with baby Kim, at her baptism

Adelaide, known as Adele or Dell, was stubborn, strong, independent, and other adjectives you might associate with a depression era, Wisconsin farm-raised woman of German heritage.  She was also one of the warmest, giving people you could encounter.  At Nana's wake, my stepmother shared how kind Nana had been to her, always making her included in the family.  

L to R - Adele, oldest sister Helen,
their mother, youngest sister Jeanne

Of the four grandparents, I knew her the best.  Partially out of longevity and circumstance, she lived into her eighties with her faculties intact.  My paternal grandmother, unfortunately, had dementia the last of her years, and the grandfathers passed when I was in my teens.  She also remained physically independent until almost the end, later assisted by my uncle and aunt.  She was at the weddings, birthdays, baptisms.  

Papa and Nana making their
entrance at my parent's wedding reception
(Grandpa and Grandma following)

I think some of it also involves the closeness of the mother-daughter relationship.  The two were good friends, and talked often.  There is just something about the ease and depth of that bond, and it think it somehow carried over.   

Perhaps most significantly, was that Nana did outlive my mother.  When she was alive, my mother was the hub of the family, and communication often when through her.  After her passing, I had to forge my own direct relationship with my grandmother.

Nana and me 

Nana's birthday was a few days ago.  She's been gone a couple of years now, but I still think of her a lot on this day.  Somehow with her passing I felt I lost another little piece of my mother.  She lived a long, full life.  The last time I saw her, I could see she was ready.  She had outlived her husband, daughter, four of her five siblings.  Her legacy includes six grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren, most of whom she met, I think all but the youngest two.

Nana playing with great-granddaughter, Sidney

Nana wasn't much of a drinker, but on a warm summer day like today, if you were having a beer, she'd ask you to pour her a little glass.  Here's to you, Nana.  Love you!